Grandma’s Recipe of the Month – Mrs. Gordon’s Date Nut Bread

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Ten days after hand surgery, I’m unable to create new posts for Thanksgiving, so here’s one that features a recipe for date nut bread that has been on my family’s Thanksgiving table going back three generations…


Today is my grandmother’s birthday, and I decided to bake this rich date nut bread in her honor. She was the finest cook I ever knew, so creative that she was making risotto and paella in her tiny New York City kitchen, back when I was a small girl in the 1950’s. Even as her sight was fading and she was partially blind, my grandmother threw dinner parties and cooked everything herself. My “Moo Moo” taught me a lot about cooking, setting a beautiful table and, more importantly, how to be a good hostess to friends and family who eat at our table.

My grandmother got this recipe from her brother’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Gordon. Although I knew my great-uncle and his wife quite well, I never met the famous Mrs. Gordon, but am the third generation of women in my family to bake her dense fruit bread, studded with dates and crunchy walnuts. Come to think of it, I think my great-grandmother had this recipe before the rest of us did.

Many thanks to the friendly folks at Natural Delights for sending me a huge box of gorgeous Medjool dates. Standing at my kitchen counter while I pitted dates for my bread, I remembered how this was one of my first tasks in the kitchen when my mother allowed me to use a knife.

My mother loved this bread, and always served it at Thanksgiving, as did her mother before her. I sometimes balk at serving a sweet bread with a turkey dinner, but it is kind of Midwestern, like my grandmother was, and I am very sentimental about my family, especially around holidays.

Happy Birthday, Moo Moo, and thank you for all the gifts you gave to me throughout your long life.

5.0 from 4 reviews
Grandma's Recipe of the Month - Mrs. Gordon's Date Nut Bread
Recipe type: bread
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10-12 slices
At last three generations of women in my family have been baking this rich date and nut bread.
  • 1 cup pitted dates, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 1 teaspoon for greasing pan
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1¾ cups unbleached flour
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a loaf pan with butter.
  3. Place the dates in a small bowl and sprinkle with the baking soda. Add the boiling water and let stand for 30 minutes.
  4. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, egg and butter until smooth.
  5. Add the salt, flour and nuts and mix on low until just blended.
  6. Stir in the dates-soda-water mixture.
  7. Pour into greased loaf pan.
  8. Bake for 45-50 minutes until tester inserted in bread's center comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool 10 minutes before turning out on a rack. Slice when cooled.

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41 Responses to Grandma’s Recipe of the Month – Mrs. Gordon’s Date Nut Bread

  1. Wendy Read August 19, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    Beautiful post from a beautiful line of women, both inside and out! Can’t wait to try this one out. I used to “settle” for Thomas’ when I lived in NJ–can’t even get it here in Florida now. Pefect excuse to make a loaf.

    • Liz August 19, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

      Thanks, Wendy – it was so fun to chat with you earlier. X0

  2. Karen Rush August 19, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    What a beautiful contribution to remembering and food and very special women we are decended from. In honour of your Moo Moo, I am going to cook this cake today for my 88 year old mother who is almost blind and deaf and who is now living me. Fruit cakes such as these are her daily favorites. She used to be a great cook. When my sister and I were of dating age eons ago, we would first check to see what Mum was cooking that night for dinner before accepting (or often declining) a dinner date. Happy birthday Moo Moo.

    • Liz August 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

      You just made my day, Karen – thank you and I hope your mother enjoys it. Wow!

  3. Mare August 19, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    Oh this one definitely is my flavor profile. I love the stories you share about your family and their wonderful recipes.

    • Liz August 19, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

      Mare, thanks so much – I am trying to get my blogging back to writing more about my family in our kitchens.

  4. Elizabeth August 19, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    I just love that your Gramma was making risotto in the 50’s. What a lovely lady and great recipe. Thanks.

    • Liz August 20, 2012 at 8:14 am #

      She was a true adventurer in her kitchen – no counter space, minimum storage, a tiny oven – and my parents’ wedding reception was cooked/baked there too…

  5. Beth (OMG! Yummy) August 19, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    Great post Liz and your grandmother’s photo and recipe are priceless! Thanks so much for sharing it with us! My grandmother was also a fabulous baker and always worked in a tiny NY City kitchen as well. Sometime, we’ll have to compare notes!

    • Liz August 20, 2012 at 8:13 am #

      Yes, Beth, we will have to get together and talk about our grandmothers.

  6. Averie @ Averie Cooks August 20, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    this sounds so delish! I love dates and I bet in the bread they are like little sweet surprises!

    • Liz August 20, 2012 at 9:38 am #

      Cute – “sweet surprises” –

  7. Stephanie, The Recipe Renovator August 20, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    Hi Liz, I just love this story! I feel like I’m sitting at your beautiful table right now. You definitely continue the tradition of being a warm and lovely hostess.

    • Liz August 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

      Thanks, Stephanie – really appreciate your kind words.

  8. Jayne August 20, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    I loved reading about your Grandmother. How lovely that you have and use her recipes. This cake sounds lovely. I love the photo of your Grandmother too!

    • Liz August 20, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

      Thanks, Jayne – she was very, very special – also gave me my Meyer lemon tree during her only visit here in San Diego.

  9. Lynda - TasteFood August 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    Such a nice memory – thanks for sharing and the recipe.

    • Liz August 20, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

      Sure – it is fun for me and comforting at the same time.

  10. The Wimpy Vegetarian August 20, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    What a beautiful way to honor your grandmother’s birthday, and the role she played in your life! And this is my favorite photo of your ‘moo-moo’ – thanks for sharing her and this family recipe with us ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Liz August 20, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

      I love that photo too – so priceless. Thanks, Susan.

  11. Oui, Chef August 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    I love a great fruit and nut bread, especially one with such a lovely story behind it.

    • Liz August 23, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

      You are so sweet – it’s such a basic recipe but I have my recipe card and a couple of my mom’s for the same recipe – just found them and should have posted.

  12. Becky December 3, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    This is a great date nut bread recipe, especially because it is from your Grandma, which makes it so special. Sending lots of #nutlove your way.

  13. David December 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Hi Liz,

    I grew up enjoying my great memere’s datenut bread. It was so good with cream cheese spread on top! She has been gone for a long time and the enjoyment of her datenut bread went forgotten for many years do to a busy life. Well, when I was at the grocery store they had datenut bread and it triggered a spark of something I had long forgotten about. It was not so great haha…but brought me back to when I was a kid and I want to enjoy datenut bread again so I did a search and you came up so I’m going to try this out and see.

    • Liz December 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

      Hi Dave, This recipe is pretty easy and I hope it will taste like your great memere’s date nut bread.

  14. Caitlin February 16, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

    So awesome! I love all things dates + nuts.

    • Liz February 16, 2015 at 3:48 pm #

      Thanks, Caitlin – this is a really old recipe from my family, still a keeper.

  15. Suzanne November 14, 2015 at 3:03 pm #

    Liz what a beautiful tribute to your Grandmother, the date nut bread both looks and sounds delicious. I hope your hand is doing better and that you heal completely and quickly. Will you be able to use your hand to cook for Thanksgiving?

    • Liz November 14, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

      No hand until early-mid December. But I will be cooking TG!

  16. sue|theviewfromgreatisland November 22, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

    Old family recipes are priceless — I love date nut bread and I’ve been on the hunt for a good one, thanks!

    • Liz November 23, 2015 at 7:19 am #

      Hope this will be a winner for you, Sue – I love your site.

  17. Shelia Mendez March 12, 2017 at 4:14 am #

    I know I’m a little late in posting this but wanted to let you know that this recipe is to die for and will be making this for Christmas presents. I know everyone is going to love it as much as we have. I hope your hand healed will. God bless you and your family.

  18. Pamela Fady October 7, 2017 at 11:28 am #

    Loved reading your Liz. Ive got a box of dae bread to make but will for aure make ykurs soon this holiday seasone. I love medjool dates so i cant wait to make this recipe. I anticipate a new recipe to add to my collection. Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories

  19. Diane Stetson September 3, 2018 at 9:40 am #

    Thank you for the beautiful picture of your grandmother.

    I have this recipe and I always use it, but really I was brought to tears by the sweet expression on your grandmother’s face and your loving memories
    I also have a tiny kitchen with no counter space, and now I’m going to think of Mumu everytime I feel like complaining

  20. Donna Emmons December 9, 2018 at 9:07 pm #

    I made this recipe. Flavor and texture is good. I prepared the loaf pan well as directed; however the date bread stuck to the bottom of the pan which made it unusable for my party. I would reccomend lining the bottom of the loaf pan with parchment paper.

    • Liz December 15, 2018 at 1:06 pm #

      Good idea –

  21. Sherrill Carson October 18, 2019 at 10:11 am #

    Hi, This sounds like the recipe my mother made and I just loved her date and nut bread. Will be trying this soon. Oh, I had read some of your other recipe stories and relate completely with grandmothers and their measurements. I will never forget my grandmother trying to teach me how to make Pa Dutch pot pie dough. A handful of flour, her tiny hand was half of less the size of mine. What fun we had, I miss those times. Thanks for the recipes. Sher

    • Liz October 19, 2019 at 7:29 pm #

      It’s such a powerful connection. My grandparents were married in Kalamazoo, Michigan almost 100 years ago today. Yet I feel my grandmother with me in my kitchen every day.

  22. LynnM January 12, 2020 at 9:02 am #

    This is amazing date and nut bread. Reminds of my childhood when my nana made this in England. Love it so do all that eat it. Thank you for this recipe.

    • Liz January 12, 2020 at 12:43 pm #

      So glad you all enjoy it. The recipe goes back four generations in my family, on the Scottish-English side of the family. I make it every year as part of our Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s great to have around to enjoy a slice with tea or coffee.

  23. Kim December 17, 2020 at 11:12 pm #

    Omg !! My Tita (aunt) Alice used to make this all the time. She went back home to the Philippines in 2012. I miss her and her cooking soo much. She would bring me like 4 loaves to myself around Christmas time. I will be making this date nut bread this weekend. Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

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